July 11, 2010, Cheon Bok Gung, Yongsan, Seoul Korea
We’re very happy all of you are here. Today, I’d like to talk with you about prayer, the practice of prayer.
First, let’s look at some of the world’s scriptures. We are going to look at I Thessalonians 5:17, representing Christianity—very short, but very powerful. Let’s read together: “Pray constantly.” Beautiful. It is very real—pray constantly, the idea of constant prayer—every day we can have a prayerful heart. From Islam: this is from the Koran, the 7th Surahic verse [007.055], “Call on your Lord with humility and in private.” Aju. From the Hindu tradition, these are the words of Gandhi; let’s read this together: “It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without heart.” Aju.
Now, we will dive into our first core scripture. This is from Matthew 6:5—6. We will begin our delving into [our topic for today] prayer. Let’s read together: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners, to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Aju. As you all know, these are the famous verses and chapters in Matthew where Jesus also talks about the Beatitudes; he talks about fasting and all different portions of the spiritual life—and he has this one section on prayer. (And this is also reflected in the gospel of Luke, where we see two mentions of this section on prayer.)
Jesus begins as he climbs the mountain, and gives a sermon to his disciples about the various aspects of spiritual life. He tells them, when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. We remember from the Greek, “hypocrite” was a word that connoted somebody in the Greek theater, somebody who would perform, somebody who would act. It was an actor. So, he says, don’t go pray standing in the synagogues or on the street corners—in other words, prayer is not about performance. It is not about acting before God or getting the respect of people. That is not what prayer is about. He says, I tell you the truth: that those people who pray like that, they have received their reward in full. That means they receive their reward, which is maybe the admiration of people, but not the ear or the heart of God. So they have already received their reward in full.
When we train every day in the early wee hours of the morning, with our hunsa nims—we’ve started bowing practice, meditation training and morning training. Then I always remind them, that we must never do our devotional training or practice in order to gain respect, admiration, or rewards from people. If we do that, that is the way to become like Satan; it is Satan’s way—becoming self-centered. When we pray and when we give devotion, we do it to give glory, return gratitude, even for repenting of our own sins. This is a very important focus, which Jesus calls us to.
In our Unification Church, we can see that really there are two major types of prayer that we do.
We do unison prayer, which is prayer in a sanctuary together or in a group. We pray in unison so that everyone can hear. We pray to have our hearts centered and become one on a particular providential focus—maybe it could be North Korea, or it could be Chung Il Guk, the actualization of Chung Il Guk. We pray in unison prayer to become one—as the word unison denotes: to become one, to be united in heart and mind toward a certain providential purpose.
Then there is the individual prayer, which is a time to invest in our relationship with God and True Parents.
The question then arises: How do I pray? Many people pray very constantly every day, they pray often. But when was the last time we actually looked at how we prayed, looked at and analyzed the way we prayed? When we look at the way we pray, usually we have prayers of petition: “Father, bless me in this situation. Father, help me and give me strength in this situation. Father, I need your help to do well in this situation, to overcome the situation.” We have prayers of petition where we request things from God or ask God to be with us in a certain time of difficulty. These are very important prayers because everybody has many moments in their life when they need strength beyond their own capacity. But, imagine if you looked at your relationship with your spouse—many of you are probably blessed—and the only type of conversation you had with your spouse was “help me; give me strength; do that for me; bless me; help me out”—if that was the only type of conversation you were having with your spouse, you could literally be sitting right next to your spouse and be as distant from your spouse as Korea is from New York. You would be that distant in heart and mind if you only had a relationship at the level of “do this; do that for me.” In that type relationship there would be no love, no intimacy, no connection of the hearts, no romance in the sense that we are completely one in our heart and mind. The connection of heart, emotion, intellect and will—there would be none of that. It would be simply asking the other for help.
You know, when we visit families, we always suggest to them a practice that we do personally. We share with them the practice of doing your children’s days. That is, whether it is their birthday or not—that doesn’t matter—every week, spend one-on-one time with one of your children. Do it once a week, every week, without fail. Every child. For example, my first child would have it this week. On Wednesday, we would do his day, and it would be his day to go out with Dad and Mom—his day to go out to dinner and have ramen, or whatever. He likes pizza. It would be just his day when we focus on him. We don’t talk about the other children, don’t compare him to the other children—”Hey, why can’t you study as hard as your sister?”—none of that. Focus on him. Focus on that child, the one-on-one time; that is essential. Then the next week will be the second son, and the next week will be a daughter. Then we suggest to the families we visit, after you have done your children’s days, the next day you should do is your mommy/daddy day. You need time as blessed central spouses to come together once again, to connect heart and heart, mind and mind. When we were in America, we used to put the kids to sleep—put them in the mini-van and drive them around to put them asleep. And as they would fall asleep, then we would have time. I would have time to talk with my wife; we could share; we could reminisce on how beautiful the kids are, how blessed we are, things like that. We could connect once again. Now of course because of the gas prices, we don’t do that so often. But, you know we have other times: tea ceremony time—times we have just for investing in this relationship, in the spousal relationship.
And that is the same with God. Jesus tells us. What does he say in that passage that we just read? “Go into your room and shut the door”—nobody else with you. Go into your room; don’t stand on the street corners and in the synagogues. Go into your room and shut the door. Close the door on your worries and your connection to the outside world. Shut them out; and just pay attention to God. Give Him your full attention. Make one-on-one time with God is what Jesus is saying!
Now, how many of us in our normal life make one-on-one time with God? Usually we are praying in the spur of the moment, in the motion of life: “Father, I need help now. Father, I have a big need! Father, I need help! I need your blessing! Father, I need your help; my child is about to take a big test. He needs to get into the college of his choice! Father, I need …” We often pray this way. But how often do we go into our room, shut the door and pray? God needs one-on-one time. In fact, it is the other way around, we need one-on-one time with God.
In the modern world, so many people believe God is the cosmic vending machine. Like in the movie The Secret: you put a little quarter in, do your repetitions, and kick the machine a couple of times, then you get whatever you want—the universe will give it to you. Well, let me tell you something, brothers and sisters: the purpose of creation is not so that we can get all our wishes and desires and personal interests fulfilled. That is not the reason why God created us; He is definitely not the personal vending machine, the cosmic vending machine. God created us—and we know this because we are Unificationists and we have the Principle—He created us so that we would know Him, bring joy to Him, and be in a loving relationship with Him. He created us so that we could give and receive the most powerful force, the essence of everything in the universe, which is the essence of God: true love. This was the purpose. And for this purpose, Jesus advises us saying, “I want you to go into your room and pray. I want you to close your door—nobody else with you, not even your wife or your children. No relationship is greater than your relationship with me. I want you to give me one-on-one time.” And that is what Jesus is showing us today.
Let’s move to the next verse, Matthew 6:7: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Aju. “OK, Jesus. All right. You told me to go into my room. I’m in my room. You told me to close the door. I closed the door. Now what? What am I supposed to do now? How long am I supposed to pray? What kind of words am I supposed to use?” Well, Jesus answers these questions. He says don’t worry about the length of the prayer. Don’t worry! Even pagans, people who don’t believe in God, even people who don’t believe in God at all pray long prayers; they pray in beautiful words. What Jesus is telling us is don’t be concerned with making long prayers. Don’t get stressed out: “Oh, I have to pray from Chapter 1 of Principle all the way to the end!” You don’t have to pray like that. Neither the length of the prayer nor the loquacious, beautiful, poetic words that we use matter.
When I was very young I knew this minister in America, an American minister. He could pray the most incredible prayers. You also may know somebody like this in your vicinity. Boy, when he started praying, everybody cried! Everybody felt the sorrow of God’s heart. Boy, he prayed like he was writing Shakespeare! Incredible prayers—poetic! Amazing! What happened to him? He could pray long prayers and do the whole providential picture in one prayer in a beautiful poem. He ended up divorcing his wife, breaking his Blessing, running off with another woman! Oh, Lord!
God is not interested in the length of our prayers only. He is not interested in how beautifully they are created. He wants to see what kind of character of heart we are praying to Him with. So Jesus reminds us here that even the pagans babble on, they talk and talk and pray and pray. They do that for hours. But that’s not the point—don’t be like them.
And he ends by saying: “because your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” This is something we often forget. God already knows what we need. God already knows everything about our life. He sees every breath we take; He hears every word we utter. He knows everything about us. Nothing is hidden from Him. Nothing. Our thoughts, every thought, He can see. He knows everything even before we ask Him. “God help me! I need help! My child needs help! My business needs help! Whatever needs help!” God already knows. That doesn’t mean, of course, He is saying those things are unimportant. He’s just saying, “I know about it already. Let’s not spend all day on it. I know about the concerns.”
“So, I’m in my room, Jesus. I’m in my room. I shut the door. OK, You comforted my heart by telling me I don’t have to pray too long, I don’t have to pray with beautiful poetic words. And You know what I’m going to ask You about. So, what am I supposed to pray about now?!” That would be the question.
Jesus goes on: Matthew 6:9, very famous, especially in Europe. All of you know it, maybe in different languages, but all of you know it. Let us read together: “This then is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ ” Aju. We have no doubt heard this prayer millions of times; in fact, we may have even memorized it. Many of you from a Catholic background or an Anglican background have memorized this prayer. You recited it with your rosaries. You know it. But when we see this prayer, what we have to realize is that Jesus is giving us a way to pray. We usually just recite it—we just repeat it. He also mentioned this in the gospel of Luke. It is different in the way he mentioned it, but the order is the same. The words are not the same. Trust me, he didn’t get the Lord’s Prayer wrong; he is just showing the order. Jesus is showing that there are five real points in prayer—five different steps in prayer. He is not saying just memorize it and recite it before me. He’s saying there are five steps!
The first step is, “Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” Declare God’s greatness. God first. God is great. God is the creator of all things, almighty, all knowing. Declare God’s holiness, His goodness, first.
Second, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Not my kingdom; not my will. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done is what Jesus asked us to focus on.
The third step is then, “Give us today our daily bread.” Our daily bread simply meant things we are worried about during the day, things that we have a big preoccupation with. At the time (2000 years ago), because of the impoverished nature of the situation at the time, daily bread was the main concern. Today in modern times, it may be different: What school am I going to get into? What job am I going to have? How am I going to buy that house? How am I going to get that car? How am I going to get my retirement plan? It may be all of these kinds of things. That is the third stage.
The fourth, “Forgive us of our sins,” because every day, whether we acknowledge it or not, or know it or not, we commit sin (individual sin). We slip up. We curse somebody. We hate somebody. We are jealous of somebody. Those are all sins. We make little lies. When I was a baby kid, I used to steal candy from the candy store. That is sin. That is stealing. Right? We have sins. Jesus reminds us: ask for forgiveness. And also, learn to forgive.
Fifth, “Lead us not into evil or temptation, but deliver us.” Bring us into your salvific glory, not into the evil, not into the mud. Bring us out of that and into salvation, into the glory. That is what Jesus is saying.
I want to go back to the first stage, God is great, this declaration. Look at the way you pray. When we pray, do we start by giving glory to God? Or do we usually pray: “God I need your help today? God, I’m about to go in and give a presentation, I need your blessing today.” Jesus is saying God is not going to listen to that. We are in a relationship with God not on our terms. The Creator of the Universe has given us a blessing, the chance to be in a relationship with Him. That is a blessing. And thus we are in that relationship on His terms, not on our terms. So the first thing is declaring that God is great. “God, You are great! You are holy, and You are good!” Why is this so important? Think about your normal day-to-day life where you are in battle with different struggles, different situations, peer pressure, corporate pressure, all sorts of things. In light of all those things, we can get focused on something that is bothering us, right in front of us. We can focus, hyper-focus, on the issue at hand. Maybe my child is really not doing so well. I can focus on that issue and the more I focus on it, the bigger it seems. We forget the perspective, and we get pulled into the problem. We get confused, thinking that we are never going to overcome this. My child is never going to turn around, never going to get better! We hyper-focus. And in doing so, we forget that this problem is nothing for the Creator of the Universe. We forget that almighty God, God is much bigger than the small little confusion or problem we have before us.
So the first thing Jesus says, when you pray, don’t forget, you start prayer with declaring, remembering, God is great. “God, You are good. God, what I’m dealing with now is nothing. Nothing. Because You are all things and You can easily help me overcome this when You want, on Your timeline when You give the OK.”
In the pressing circumstances of life, we have a tendency as human beings to focus on the problems at hand, which lead us to fear the future and which also lead us to forget the past. We forget that God has been good to us for our whole life. We forget that when we were younger, he saved our daughter when she was just a little baby; He saved her. We forget that when we were in a car accident, and we were in a coma, He saved us, brought us back to consciousness. We forget that when we had this big situation in our business or in the work that we were doing, and almost everything failed, the one person whom we absolutely needed, He sent! You see, when we get focused on the present difficulty, we can forget about God’s goodness in the past. We can start fearing the future. What God is saying to us is: don’t forget. Jesus is saying, don’t forget. Begin by saying, “God is good, He is great.” Begin by not dwelling on the present circumstances. Remember how great He has been; remember how good He has been to you. If God has been good to you, let’s give him a big round of applause! (applause) Because I am alive! I am alive! We are alive! He is good! Right? It is very important. It is very important; we are alive. Whenever we do meditation prayer, we always return to “I am alive.” “Thank you,” giving glory; “I am alive! I am alive!” remembering that we were given life.
Second, Your kingdom: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Not, “my kingdom come, my will be done.” Not, “God help me build my kingdom, my fortune; God help me do everything that I wish to do; God help me live my life as I will it.” No. If we are praying like that, that is why our prayers are not answered—we are not praying to God; we are not in a relationship on His terms!
We are not equals in our relationship with God. Jesus reminds us: it is about God’s kingdom. It is about His will that we must surrender our kingdom and our will to. This is very hard for us to do, very hard. We want God to help me. We want The Secret to be true. “Make The Secret true! Please, God, be the cosmic vending machine! Secret, be true!” Oh, but that is not the true relationship with God, nor can it ever bring us true happiness.
We usually pray to God, “God, I hope my meeting goes well, my business expands, my wealth is blessed, my lineage is blessed, my children go to great schools.” If you are Korean or Asian, I know the parents are praying this: “Good schools! All A’s to not shame the family!” Pray! Pray! For my kingdom! For my will! My children! My will! My kingdom! That is not how we are actually supposed to pray. It should be God first. It is not to say those things are unimportant. Concern for our family, concern for our livelihood, concern for success are important. We work, and are responsible; diligent in everything we do. Yet, it is not about my kingdom in the end. “God, it is about Your kingdom. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
And so, Jesus brings us then to the third point, which is: then pray about what you need. Don’t start off praying about what you need. First remember, put your needs in context; remember, God is great. Put your sufferings and difficulties in context! Remember that God is the Creator of time and space, the Creator of the universe, the planets, the suns, and the stars—and then see your problems in light of that. Remember to make it your purpose to live for God’s kingdom, for God’s will, and then—at the third stage—pray for what you need. God loves you. Pray for what you need. He already knows what you need, but if it soothes your heart, share with him what you need.
The fourth stage: Jesus then talks about forgiveness. As we mentioned, asking for forgiveness is so important in prayer life.
And fifth: “Lead us not into temptation, but lead us into salvation.” That means every aspect of your life! Church is not just one category; it is not categorical. It is not just one part of your intellect, not just one part of your mentality; it is not just one part of emotion. God is not only one category in your life alongside other categories in your life. God is the center around which all the categories revolve. Jesus is saying that of all the categories, God is at the center of it all—leading us away from evil and into the salvation of God, the glory of God, the goodness of God. Whether it be our marriage, our blessing, our blessed children, our community, our work, our spiritual training—in all these things: “God, lead us! Don’t let us be led into temptation by any one of these things. But let all of these things lead to salvation. Let all these things lead to the greater glory of Your kingdom.” This is how Jesus tells us to pray.
One brother asked me, “Why do you pray in True Parents’ name when you give the prayer blessing at the end of the service? We are supposed to pray in our names! I thought we are supposed to pray in the central blessed family’s name!”
Yes. But one thing about praying in our names is that we can become confused. We remember that we used to pray in Jesus’ name. True Parents were praying in the Lord’s name, in Jesus’ name. And then True Parents used to pray in True Parents’ name. We used to all pray in True Parents’ name. Then, we were told by Father to report, and in our report we could pray in our own names. But here we can mess things up. We can start thinking: Oh, because we used to pray in Jesus’ name, and he was the Lord, the Messiah; and because we prayed in True Parents’ names, and they are the Lord of the second advent; now I can pray in my name—I am just as great as they are! I am just as much a Messiah as they are!
Remember, when we offer prayer and report to heaven, we are really praying and reporting our situation to heaven. It is almost like when you end in your name, or your family’s name, you are signing your prayer with a spiritual pen. I sign my name; I pray in my name. It is like in Korea, we have the big seal; we use the seal to stamp our names. When we offer our report to heaven, we are praying, not saying that we are True Parents, not saying that we are the messiah, but that we are reporting to heaven, to True Parents. We are signing our names, our family’s name, to the report that is being sent. When I pray in private and when I train together with the hoonsa nims, then we pray in our own names, because in those situations we are reporting to heaven. We are signing our names on the prayer, so to speak.
When we look at our tradition, we see that True Parents teach us that in these reports we of course can ask God about the things that bother us in our normal daily life. But True Parents teach us that first we must give glory to God. First we give glory to God, just like Jesus said. If we compare True Parents’ prayer and Jesus’ prayer, there are many points of similarity. We offer glory to God; we remember who is great; we remember who is bigger than any situation; we thank them. And True Parents specifically say, comfort God’s heart. It is a very important part of our tradition: comforting God—comforting Him, understanding the His pain; and then, of course, putting His kingdom before ours. This is central in True Parents’ prayers.
Jesus said that at the third stage, we can pray for our own individual needs; but True Parents take it one step further and say before we do that, we want to pray for God. We want to uplift God. It is His kingdom before our kingdom, His will before ours. And we want to be world global citizens: as [Father’s] book says, we want to be segye een. We want to pray for the world, we want to pray for the nation, we want to pray for our tribes and our society, we want to pray for other families. Then we pray for our family; then we pray for our children. And finally we pray for our needs. This is not saying that our needs are the lowest, but this is the way we offer prayer to God. This is the way we acknowledge that there are things greater than our own individual worries and desires.
As the True Parents say, pray for God, pray for Jesus and the saints. Pray for the world like a saint, pray for the nations like a patriot, for the family like the filial son, and finally address your wants and desires.
True Parents teach us to go one step beyond, to understand that we are always connected—not only to God who is unseen, but also to the seen world, to the visible world, our world—and to make the commitment to move forward.
I want to end with True Parents’ words. Let’s read it together and we will end. This is from the seventh volume of the speeches of True Parents. Let’s read together: “By praying for God’s sake, you can know God’s heart through history. Next you should pray for Jesus, then the multitudes of saints in Christendom who have fought for the great will of the dispensation following the footsteps of all the prophets and saints who walked the path of faith since the fall of Adam and Eve. You should pray in tears, ‘Please allow me to become an offering to cleanse all their sorrows.’ After you have finished that prayer, you may pray for your beloved children, and lastly for yourself. This is the order according to heavenly law.” Aju!
Father here is not saying that our prayers should all be equal in length. Remember, the length is not the important thing. At different times in your life, you may actually end up praying about the nation more than other sections of the prayer. You may pray for forgiveness more than other sections of the prayer. But this is the way that prayer can move, if we are to move God’s heart: we need to pray with His perspective, to pray with His heart. This is what captures God’s attention.
True Father Prayer:
Glory be unto the Holy True Father,
Liberator of God’s Heart, King of Kings,
Returning Christ, and full inheritor of God’s True Love!
We bow before your sacrifice for us!
For our trespasses you suffered and died, descending into Hell seven times to indemnify our sin from the individual to the cosmic level. We bow before you in utmost gratitude and give you glory! Aju!
True Mother Prayer
Glory be unto the Holy True Mother, Perfected Eve, and mover of the Holy Spirit! Blessed is your sacred womb from which we are born again of the Holy Spirit.
Pray for us, your children, and permit us to come closer to God and our Holy True Father, now and when we ascend to the spirit world, Aju!
Brothers and sisters, let’s all rise and now end in our final prayer. Let’s all raise our hands and pray.
Dearest most beloved Heavenly Father, You are great. Father, You are good. You are inconceivably profound. Father, You created the skies, and the heavens and the earth. Father, you created the planets and the stars. You created time and space. Father, we want to acknowledge Your greatness, because anything on this small planet Earth, in this small nation of Korea, in this small sanctuary, in the small minds of ours—any problem in our minds—is not that big.
Father, let us always keep it in perspective, for You are amazing. You are always with us, and You know what we need. Father, we want to give You glory. We want to elevate and praise Your name—lift it up on high today as we begin our prayer. Father, we want to set the record straight: it is not my kingdom and my will. It is Your kingdom and Your will first. Father, we pray that You may use us for Your kingdom and will, that You may use our families for Your kingdom and will, that You may use our talents for Your kingdom and will, that You may use our learning for Your kingdom and will, our careers for Your kingdom and will, our material blessing for Your kingdom and will. We pray that You may use our spiritual practice for Your kingdom and will! Father, in all things, it is Your kingdom before my kingdom.
Father, we thank You so much because You allow us into this love relationship with You, a relationship where we don’t have to be the great warrior in every circumstance, where we can rely on You, where we can remember Your goodness, how You saved us through so many situations in our past.
Father, we thank You so much. Father, we also pray for the world, that it may return back to You. Father, we pray for all the nations; particularly, all the brothers and sisters here who have joined us from Europe—Father, we pray for every one of their nations this day! Bless those nations, Father! Bless them for Your kingdom and Your will. And Father, we pray that You may bless the societies in those nations, the tribes, the families; and, Father, that You may use us in our individual lives so that we can make Your kingdom shine.
Father, we thank You so much because today we meditate and we focus our attention on prayer; not on the worries of this present life but on the eternality of Your goodness.
We thank You so much, Father, and we want to offer all our love and devotion to You. We also want to ask You to forgive us if we have done things that are wrong. Father, we pray that You may forgive us so that we may learn also to practice forgiveness toward people who have wronged us—to not hold grudges and to not hold that kind of anger and resentment in our hearts, to let it go; for, Father, you have forgiven us.
Father, lead us in all our pathways. Lead us in all our categories of life to be centered on the salvation that You provide. We thank You so much, and we offer all these things in our own names with a thankful and everlasting love. We pray these things in the names of the central blessed families and the great name of our beloved True Parents; we pray. Aju!